Just a few black sheep
In some tweets and probably some blogs I have railed about how certain Nigerians resort to criminal enterprise in Diaspora. It is sad that the activity of those Nigerians eventually has a deleterious effect on the lives of other Nigerians once a stereotype is created from the few events, usually borne of the reportage that follows.
For every few black sheep Nigerians involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud, swindles, corruption and other crimes of reputational impact, there multitudes of Nigerians who as world citizens dispersed around the globe living decent, honest, valuable, amazing and commendable lives in their communities bringing pride and showing exemplary conduct.
Archaic at best, ignorant at worst
In a recent visit to the UK, President Muhammadu Buhari seems to have expressed opinions of an archaic, ill-informed and frankly ignorant nature about his fellow citizens abroad, having failed to qualify his statements and thereby unwittingly and unforgivably besmirched the reputation and integrity of the Nigerian majority in Diaspora.
There is no doubt that in his words, “We have an image problem abroad and we are on our way to salvage that.” But that is hardly the whole story. [The Telegraph]
He went on to say, “Some Nigerians claim is that life is too difficult back home, but they have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking, I don't think Nigerians have anybody to blame. They can remain at home, where their services are required to rebuild the country.”
The potential never realised
We need to break this down, I have been in Europe a total of over 30 years, I was born in the UK, we returned to Nigeria after the civil war and the promise and ideal that was Nigeria for the decade of the 1970s became a rapid decline in the 1980s, a good few of us left Nigeria, disillusioned young men and women as the 1980s closed and we got into the 1990s and that with much reason.
Whilst things might not have been difficult for me in general, things were made difficult by a system that neither celebrated merit nor honesty, there was a rent-seeker down the chain of every attempt to do anything in the public and the private sector that expected a backhander, it was suffocating.
Others experienced worse, university courses stunted by incessant strikes, job opportunities going to those who could peddle the right sort of influence, people persecuted for being different, insurrection and militancy creating impossible living conditions and in the words of a friend that recently left Nigeria, “We keep hoping for the best for the nation but when the government does not think it criminal to owe its employees’ wages, the employees have to look for another means of surviving.”
This is ill-informed
The President seems either blinkered, myopic or indifferent to the plight of the Nigerian majority suffering at home to come over to the UK and pass unqualified and unfair judgement on Nigerians abroad, on the basis of the infractions and the criminal enterprise of a few.
Indeed, Nigeria can do with the services of amazingly resourceful, knowledgeable and expert fellow countrymen, but there must be an unbreakable contract in the provision of this service, the most important of this is paying promptly for the products and the services; extending to employee rights, the duty for employers in all sectors to pay salaries in full and on time, the prospect of career development, the right not to have to work in exacting conditions of abuse, disrespect and forms of bonded slavery.
People leaving school should know they have a possible work life in Nigeria that would exploit their potential to the fullest. The issue of infrastructure needs to be addressed with the engagement of Nigerian talent in roads and transportation, power, health, education and other areas of development.
That war on corruption must be prosecuted to the fullest extent and the looted funds ploughed back into the economy, the insurgencies and militancy need to be contained for the regions affected to see development and much else.
Get to work and honestly, shut up!
President Muhammadu Buhari has his work cut out, the greatest of which is restoring the promise that Nigeria once was at her independence and rewriting a contract of citizenship with Nigerians that shows we have a place and a stake in Nigeria. He is not going to get far with insinuation and vituperation masquerading as frank patrician talk to the foreign press, it is just bad form.
What comes into Nigeria from Diaspora is great and not to be belittled, yet, until the project that is Nigeria heads towards a greater prospect which is for his leadership to conduct and direct, the exodus from Nigeria will continue and for good reason, we all have one life to live and everyone wants to make the best of that life regardless of where that can be done, for some, it is outside Nigeria.